The WSOP went big online in 2019, offering Nevada and New Jersey nine bracelet opportunities. From $400 to $3,200, WSOP.com filled the schedule with a wide range of buy-ins and brought in thousands of players.
Bill Rini, WSOP.com head of online poker spoke to US Poker about the impact of New Jersey players on the online events.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves. We had a 124 percent increase in players in our online bracelet events and we had almost $2.6 million in prize pools in just a single day. That’s bigger than many sites can do for an entire series, and we did it in just five events on June 30.”
The New Jersey market has helped add to the interest online and Rini says, there could be even more online events next summer.
New Jersey poker players given the green light
Much of the early news of the WSOP online events this summer focused on one question: How many events will New Jersey players be able to play.
A Department of Justice opinion in November reframed the government’s view on the Wire Act. The opinion now argued that the act applied to other forms of gambling, not just sports betting.
That ruling would have shut down shared liquidity in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware online poker markets. With a federal deadline looming, Garden State players were expected to be limited to the June 2 and 9 events.
However, a lawsuit by the New Hampshire lottery to clarify the Wire Act opinion changed that. A June deadline to comply was put on hold and Jersey players were able to join in the bracelet hunting. This was good news for the WSOP.
Rini spoke further on the expanding New Jersey market.
“Obviously, there are just way more poker players in Nevada for the WSOP during the summer than in New Jersey but we’ve turned the New Jersey market from one that seasonally slumps in the summer months to one that has been all over the online bracelet and other big prize pool events.”
With a bit of momentum and some nice numbers at the WSOP, things might finally be looking up for online poker in the US.
Poker players from New Jersey finish big
With nine bracelets up for grabs, plenty of players hoped to live out their poker dreams online. Eight of the events were No-Limit Hold’em tournaments, but a Pot Limit Omaha event was also thrown in.
It was a big start right out of the gate for Jersey players.
In the $400 opening event on June 2, Palisades Park’s Yong Keun Kwon won his first bracelet and $165,263. It was an impressive win in an event with 2,825 entries and a final table that also included Phil Hellmuth.
On June 19, another New Jersey player continued his recent nice run online in the $500 Turbo Deepstack. Dan Lupo continued his domination of New Jersey online poker by adding his first bracelet and winning $145,274.
The 36-year-old architect won five tournaments in Pokerstars’ New Jersey Spring Championship of Online Poker (NJSCOOP). Lupo offered US Poker some insight into the scene at his Lopatcong home after winning the bracelet.
“My wife was ecstatic. She was confused at first when I was jumping around like a child at 2 a.m.”
The win meant Jersey players had won two of the first four events. That may have been the last of the state’s winners, but there were a few other nice finishers.
Vladimir Alexandrov took third in the $3,200 High Roller after some nice recent live tournament scores at the Borgata. He spoke to US Poker about the event.
“It was super exciting and tiring. It was a tough event, maybe one of the toughest fields I’ve ever played in.
“I wish I could have gone all the way, and there are a couple spots I would have played differently. But overall it was one of the most memorable poker experiences I’ve had.”
Another Jersey player had a close call in the $1,000 Online Championship. Ventnor’s William Harding finished third for $173,241.
Jackson resident Thomas Holowchuk closed out the deep runs for New Jersey players in the series. He took ninth in the $800 NLHE Six-Handed for $16,029, ending a nice WSOP for players from the Garden State.
A look at other online poker winners
It may have been a nice series for New Jersey, but players from around the world also got in on the online action. The $600 Six-Handed PLO event was the second online event and California’s Josh Pollock came out on top.
It was his second career bracelet and he took home $139,470. Both of those came in PLO – one online and one in a live tournament.
Longtime player Upeshka De Silva took home the $600 Knockout Bounty on June 16 for $98,263. It was the third bracelet for this player from Katy, Texas, who also holds a WPTDeepStacks title.
Another Texan took down the first four-digit buy-in when Jason Gooch won the $1,000 Double Stack event on June 23 for $241,493. Eventual Main Event runner-up Dario Sammartino took fourth for $75,093.
In the $1,000 Online Championship, New York’s Nicholas Baris won his first bracelet for $303,739. Baris cashed three times in online events including another nice finish – eighth place in the $565 PLO.
The $3,200 High Roller brought in 593 entries and longtime poker pro Brandon Adams came out on top. It was his first bracelet and he scored a hefty $411,561.
A familiar name took down the penultimate online event, the $800 NLHE Six-Handed on July 7. Canada’s Shawn Buchanan took the title and first bracelet for $223,119.
The final online event of the summer was the $500 Super Saver on July 14. California’s Taylor Paur topped a field of 1,859 for the title.
Big online poker tournament fields bring hope for future
Adding more online bracelets has been a wise business move for the WSOP. The series’ legal online poker at WSOP.com had its best month in New Jersey in three years.
The big numbers may offer a glimpse into the future of online poker in the U.S. if shared liquidity pools can grow. Momentum has certainly not been rapid, but small gains show that there is some hope for American players.
Much of that hope now shifts to Pennsylvania, which has seen online casino gaming go live in recent weeks. Online poker is also in the pipeline and expected to go live in the coming months, but there isn’t a firm date yet.
The state is expected to join Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in a shared liquidity pool after coming online. With a population of 12.8 million, the Keystone State adds significantly to that group of players.
Caesars owns the Harrah’s Philadelphia property and offering poker in Pennsylvania seems highly likely. PokerStars is also expected to launch in the market. A few hurdles remain:
- Longer the testing period takes, the longer it takes for cards to be dealt
- The Justice Department is still considering an appeal of the Wire Act ruling
- Adding the state to the shared liquidity pool will not be immediate
US online poker has seen plenty of setbacks in recent years, but there seems to be some momentum at the moment.
As more states legalize or come close (Michigan), WSOP online events have a shot to grow even more.
But beyond that, more states coming on board with online gaming, sports betting included, encourages other states to test the waters.
(Featured image courtesy of WSOP on Facebook)